By Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh
In Hebrew, the words געגועים-נענועים-שעשועים/Ga’agu’im-Na’anu’im-Sha’ashu’im are spelled similarly and also allude to an important process in our service of God. Ga’agu’im means ‘Longing.’ Na’anu’im means ‘Movement,’ and Sha’ashu’im means ‘Delight.’ First, a person longs for a particular goal or destination. He then begins to move out of his comfort zone toward his destination. Ultimately, he reaches his goal and takes delight in his closeness and cleaving to God.
Different tzaddikim parallel each step of this process, which also parallels past, present and future:
There are tzaddikim of longing, who inspire us with holiness and memories of the glory of past generations. They awaken longing in the soul for that lofty holiness, planting aspiration and yearning that elevate the person above his daily routine.
There are tzaddikim who get us moving: Internally, deep in their souls, their followers are jolted and jarred from their complacence as the tzaddik inspires them to face up to their present reality and change for the better. Externally, these tzaddikim initiate movements to introduce vital change to the world (for example, the immense shlichut project founded by the Rebbe Rayatz and boundlessly expanded by the Rebbe).
And then there are tzaddikim who are so planted in the yearned-for future, that their entire interaction with the world awakens delight: delight in the Torah and delight in how they relate to the present with an eye on the future, slightly ascending above and ignoring present reality. The inspiration of these tzaddikim sweetens the pain of our longing, giving us a sense of the destination to which we should aspire and toward which we should move and progress.
Over the last generations, with the revelation of Chassidut, there were three tzaddikim who passed away on the 1st of Iyar, all of whom had an affinity to the Land of Israel that juxtaposes with the longing-moving-delighting axis. (We will present them in this order, and not chronologically).
Rabbi Avraham Weinberg of Slonim, author of the “Beit Avraham,” passed away on 1 Iyar, 5693 (1933). The Chassidic dynasty of Slonim characteristically highlights longing for the holiness of the previous generations in general, particularly for the ‘heiligeh Shabbosim’ the holy Shabbats of Lechovitch-Kubrin-Slonim. (In this Chassidut, Shabbat is perceived as a day of remembrance, “a remembrance of the Creation” and “a remembrance of the exodus from Egypt,” which interrupt the development of time and return reality to the point of beginning). In his visits to the Land of Israel, Rabbi Avraham Weinberg established the foundations of the Slonim Chassidic sect in Jerusalem (emphasizing that the true building of Jerusalem is not homes being built within it in the present, but the personal holiness of the amoliger Chossid – the “old-time Chossid”). Subsequently, the Slonim Chassidut rose in Jerusalem from the ashes, building on its pre-Holocaust glory.
Rebbe Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk, author of “Pri Ha’aretz,” passed away on 1 Iyar 5548 (1788). His penetrating words, the foundation of Chassidic thought throughout the generations, move and jolt those who plumb their depths and merit to understand them. Rebbe Menachem Mendel initiated the first major aliyah to Israel in the modern era – the aliyah of the Chassidim, which renewed the inner movement of Return to Zion in the present. (On the one hand, Rebbe Menachem Mendel pioneered a major aliyah. On the other, he keenly took into account the existing limitations at that point in time – aspiring to elevate the world, but not to ‘break its vessels’).
Rabbi Akiva Yosef Schlesinger, author of the “Lev Ha’ivri”, passed away on 1 Iyar 5682 (1922). Rabbi Schlesinger was ahead of his time, so planted in the future vision of the Kingdom of Israel – with an extreme ultra-Orthodox perspective – that he allowed himself to seriously delight in the ideas of a Jewish state with an independent army and economy. (He paid for his dreams dearly, suffering persecution and excommunication due to his society’s lack of understanding of his approach).
May the merits of all these tzaddikim protect us and all Israel, and motivate us to joyously progress on the axis of longing-moving-delighting.
(Excerpted from the Farbrengen in honor of Rebbe Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk, Tiberias, 1 Iyar, 5779).